During very large projects, such as AEM's Kirkland Lake property, Vision 4K can mobilize two or even three crews on site simultaneously. Working with multiple crews can significantly increase progression over the survey grid but requires extra planning to avoid conflicts between UAVs. Over the course of this project, crews had to deal with all kinds of working environment ranging from residential neighborhoods to swamps and power line corridors. This is certainly one of the most challenging projects regarding crew dispatch and time management that the company has undertaken.
It all started with a small, 50 km test survey, at Alamos Gold's Island Gold mine in Ontario and quickly became a behemoth 4500 line-km survey spanning over 3 phases in one year. Our crews had to deal with about 3h of travel time each day which means they had to maximize every little weather window. In an area where there are no weather stations available, our crews learned a lot about weather forecasting and were able to identify the best times to fly each day. This resulted in minimal standby fees on a project that was flown mainly during winter where we usually get bad weather.
Located in the remote James Bay area of Quebec, Lake Sakami property featured helicopter transport to the operations site, extremely bad and unpredictable weather and a very short window to complete the project. Helicopter mobilization is costly but highly efficient for our survey crews as they are able to set up anywhere on the grid and fly optimal survey lines. It required careful planning prior to the project to identify landing zone locations and transmit them to the client so that ground crews are able to cut landing pads for the helicopter. Once up there, it would be impossible to cut new landing pads, so the planning phase of this project was a crucial part of its success. Without any cellphone service on site, the crew had to rely on visual observations and information relayed from the helicopter pilot for weather assessment. Since there was no way of transmitting daily data, our on-field QC/QA ability was a real asset to ensure that all survey lines were of optimal quality.
The Lake Shortt property owned by SOQUEM is located midway between Chapais and Lebel-sur-Quevillon in the province of Quebec. Access from the closest amenities was fairly long with the addition of tens of kilometers of snowmobile trail every day. With numerous trails in very bad condition, our crews took advantage of bad weather days to cut fallen trees and groom the trails preparation for operational days. With the snow quickly melting in early Spring, the timing of each flight block was crucial to ensure that access requiring frozen lakes was cleared before it was too late. Coordination with the local first nation of Waswanipi was also necessary in some parts of the grid to avoid disturbing trap lines and hunting.
Although the Patris property is located near the town of Rouyn-Noranda (which facilitates access), it also signifies more air and ground traffic to deal with. For this particular zone, Vision 4K had to obtain an SFOC (or Specialized Flight Operations Certificate) from Transport Canada in order to operate in controlled airspace near the Rouyn airport and other aerodromes in the vicinity. With no vantage point in the area, both crews on site had to strategically use a retractable boom lift to keep an eye on the aircraft an airspace at all times. Since air traffic can get quite heavy near YUY, flights were concentrated in the evening and during nighttime to increase the conspicuity of our system and minimize encounters. Crews also had to meet with some owners to explain the operation taking place and, in some instances, even got authorization from them to set up on their property!
Working on and near an operationally active mine site always presents some additional challenges. Luckily, Vision 4K had previously worked with major mining companies throughout Canada and understands the importance of following safety measures on a mine site. Being the largest open-pit mine in Canada, MCM is no exception to that. We had to work with two crews simultaneously on this project in order to complete some strategic sections before heavy snowfall would make access difficult with our retractable lift. Coordination with air traffic control also had to be a major aspect of the operation as it is always the case when flying near aerodromes.
The first trademark survey for Vision 4K, this project really led the company to establish itself as a leader in high resolution drone MAG surveys. AMEX exploration required ultimate resolution to identify some very small structures on its Perron property, just beside Normetal, QC. Our AimLow system was the only viable option to achieve a sensor altitude of 22m AGL in an area where average tree height is about the same. The survey yielded exceptional results and have helped AMEX continue its impressive progress on Perron since then.